Williams' future on shaky ground

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

Alvin Williams' future as an NBA player is becoming cloudier with each passing day.

The longest-serving Raptor missed his third consecutive pre-season game last night, a surprisingly close 86-83 Toronto victory over visiting Italian premier team Benetton Treviso, as a result of a chronically sore right knee.

After several meetings with team orthopedic surgeron Paul Marks recently, Williams was encouraged to seek additional opinions reguarding the condition of his knee, which has given him trouble for years.

Williams met with Dr. Tom Minus in Boston yesterday and is scheduled to meeting with Dr. Richard Steadman in Vail, Colo., next week in the hopes either a new type of therapy or surgery will allow him to play.

Williams has said there is virtually no cartilage left in the knee, and it is bone on bone.

It is become apparent that the team's career leader in games play (416) will not be healthy enough to start the regular season on Nov.3 against the Houston Rockets. There's a chance he could miss the entire season.

In either event, head coach Sam Mitchell now has to deal with the fact that he is down one point guard, leaving him free-agent signing Rafer Alston to carry the load as a starter with veteran Milt Palacio and third-year player Roger Mason Jr. coming off the bench.

"It's not going to do me any good (to worry), is it?" Mitchell said. "We have (three) point guards (left). Hey, I know Rafer can't play 48 minutes a game. At least we don't want him to. (But) we feel Roger and Milt are very capable of playing minutes at that spot."

Mitchell and general manager Rob Babcock are high on Mason's potential. The 24-year-old played well in the summer league and has a lot of skill. Palacio is a decent backup guard, averaging 3.1 assists and 4.4 points and 20 minutes a game last season.

In an emergency, or if one or two of his point guards struggles, Mitchell said he would consider using shooting guard/small forward Jalen Rose at the point, although he would prefer not.

"Before we contemplate Jalen, we need to give Roger and Milt every consideration. We owe them that much," he said.

Mitchell opted not to dress Vince Carter for last night's game, which was played in front of a disappointing crowd of 10,668 at the Air Canada Centre, and gave Jerome Moiso a chance to start at centre. Other than point guard, centre is the one big question mark on this team.

The Raptors need Moiso, Loren Woods or rookie Rafael Araujo to step up and take charge at that position to allow second-year star Chris Bosh to play at his natural position (power forward) this season.

Bosh led the Raptors last night with a double-double, 23 points and 11 assists. Donyell Marshall contributed 15 off the bench and nine rebounds. Alston and Palacio each had six assists. Guard Massimo Bulleri had 17 for the visitors.

For the third consecutive game, Raptors shot poorly from the the free-throw line -- 18-for-30 -- last night.

The highlight of the second half came when Mitchell was slapped with a technical foul for arguing a call.


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